Gap’s Head of Creative on the New Linen Moves Campaign and the Team Behind It

San Francisco-born fashion brand Gap, which sits within the brand roster of parent company Gap Inc. alongside Banana Republic, Athleta and Old Navy, is on a journey to reignite the brand. Under the direction of Gap Inc. CEO Richard Dickson, former president and chief operating officer of Barbie-owner Mattel, and Gap CEO Mark Breitbard, Gap’s renewed focus is both creative and strategic.

Positioning the brand as a platform for creative and cultural players, Gap is tapping into what made it special in its heyday. To spearhead this strategy, Gap’s creative team is delving into the archive and collaborating with today’s creative talent in the entertainment and music industry, celebrating self-expression. Its most recent spring campaign, Linen Moves, focuses on linen and nods to the brand’s heritage. British music group Jungle and South African singer songwriter Tyla collaborated with Gap to feature in a new video, wearing the brand’s spring linen collection. The campaign aims to nod to the cultural zeitgeist in an authentic way through music, dance and movement, tapping into Gap’s cultural voice once more.

Critical to reigniting the Gap brand and its product offering are the creative teams at the core of the business. Gap Inc. boasts a 95,000-strong workforce globally and its San Francisco and New York headquarters foster creativity through its collaborative workspaces and culture — which supports talent’s movement across its roster of brands.

Leading the creative team at Gap, a group of graphic designers, editors, art directors, stylists and more, is Calvin Leung. His career began on the frontline with customers, working at brands including Banana Republic before working with streetwear labels like The Brooklyn Circus. Ultimately, Leung joined Gap Inc.’s Rotational Management Program, designed to build future leaders by providing talent with a range of brand and product function experiences. Leung went on to hold merchandising and creative leadership roles at Old Navy and Yeezy Gap before landing his current position.

Now, BoF sits down with Leung to learn more about how the brand is inspiring its creative team, fostering talent and evolving for the future.

What is your creative focus today as head of creative at Gap?

We want to focus on creating cultural relevance for Gap again. Gap is one of those brands that, in the best version of itself, can be a leader, a cultural beacon. It’s about getting back to that place, which starts with looking at the past to inspire the future.

The spring campaign is an example of this approach. I had my eye on Jungle for a while, and when the music video for “Back on 74″ went viral, I was inspired by the movement. So we reached out to them. It turned out Gap’s Khaki Swing ad from 1998 was on their moodboard. We wanted to work with them, but to add a new lens to the campaign, we reached out to South African singer songwriter Tyla, who not only has an amazing sound, but is also creating buzz in the dance community and sharing a powerful cultural message through her work.

We wanted to celebrate the unique talents of everyone involved – those making waves in culture and the creative minds behind it who deserve a platform. From Jungle and Tyla to the amazing dancers and choreographer Shay Latukolan, as well as the director Charlie Di Placido, we all came together to create something special: a new side of the genre, with cultures and worlds colliding in a way that felt fresh and interesting. The whole experience from there was truly organic; it was purely creative and a collaboration between us all.

How do you encourage the team to work with Gap’s brand legacy?

When I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, Gap was one of the “it” brands. When you wanted to show up to school looking good, you went to The Gap. A lot of people identify with that same story. So, for me, it starts with reflection.

With a legacy brand like Gap, there’s such rich history. We have an incredible archive, with more than five decades of our most iconic marketing, photography, product – a true personification of our purpose, which is what this brand was founded on.

There’s a difference between recreation and evolution. What we are doing should feel familiar in the best way.

There’s a difference between recreation and evolution. What we are doing should feel familiar in the best way — all of the iconic codes that make Gap, Gap – but fresh and relevant for today.

What informs the culture of the creative team at Gap?

As a team, we are curious. Always asking ourselves: “What if? What could be? What if we tried? And what could be better?” We are creating a culture of exploration. Exploration is about putting yourself in a position to be informed, which could include competitive research, participating in culture and spending time absorbing the zeitgeist.

For me personally, creativity comes when I can step outside of my day-to-day. Today, we often move so fast that we skip the exploration part of the workflow and end up drawing from muscle memory rather than finding the time to create something new.

How would you describe the working style of your team?

At Gap, we are in a constant cycle of sharing. Our style of communication is like a group chat, sharing things all the time. It might provoke an idea, or it might not. It might validate something we’re doing, or it might not. Ultimately, it’s about keeping us energised by what’s happening out there.

We work to keep learning from each other. I aim to create an open dialogue, creating a cycle that allows people to feel like they can bring their true selves to the conversation, where it’s less about being concerned whether the idea is right or wrong.

I aim to create an open dialogue, creating a cycle that allows people to feel like they can bring their true selves to the conversation.

The diversity of the team is part of the magic that we’re able to draw from, because Gap isn’t a “one size fits all” environment — the brand means something different to each person and it’s about how we draw from that to create a confident point of view.

How do you foster creative talent internally?

For one, there’s no one voice or face of the creative team. When our talent has ideas or work, they present it. It’s about fostering confidence through exposure, learning to drive by taking the wheel, dealing with the nerves and with feedback.

We also encourage the team to spend time understanding the market by visiting stores — I worked in Gap stores and that experience opened my eyes to what the consumer values, what that experience is like and how clothes can make you feel.

We want our team to feel inspired by finding white space. Whether that is in a store, a gallery, or the beach, we want everyone to find that moment of calm and creativity, where they can recharge and discover new ideas.

What role does collaboration play in your team’s development?

The world moves fast. To keep up, we have to be in sync as a team, with clarity and empathy for what everyone does, knowing we each play a part in the total equation. It’s not about me versus you. It’s about working as a collective. We win together; we lose together.

Ultimately, we know where Gap belongs in culture and I’m excited to get the brand there with quality.

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